This is a story regarding the Great Knight's expedition to the distant nation of Rovaltinny (in an ancient Inamortan tongue which the Great Knights often use) or "Wings", as it is referred to in the native tongue.
Chapter One - Crawling In The Night Edit
Chaos. Destruction. The grass stained red with blood. The statue shattered. He stood there, wielding a bloodied axe and shield, grinning at the devastation he had caused. Bodies lay everywhere, prompting two words in his mind: more loot.
Vince woke from his nightmare, sweat dripping from his forehead. He stared around the tent. All four of his fellow Great Knights lay asleep in their hastily assembled bunks, all unusually silent.
Creak. Vince fixed his gaze upon the shadows of the trees swaying in the moonlight on the thin, flaxen tent exterior. Two figures emerged, their footsteps as quiet as those of a hunter stalking its prey, and headed towards the entrance. He felt the temptation to leap out of his bunk to grab his sword and axe, but felt utterly paralysed. His heart began to pound as the figures engorged in size until they reached the tent’s entrance.
“Ah, can’t see in the dark. Is this the right tent?”. The face of a grizzled knight poked through and peered into the interior. After his subordinate confirmed his comment, the rather short knight stepped in, clutching a crested helmet under his left arm, and barked an order at the sleeping soldiers, “Wake up men! Your night watch begins in fifteen minutes.”
Vince’s comrades stirred and groaned, before the knight took a lamp from his officer and marched around the tent, glaring at each of the men. Vince managed to lift himself out and began to stumble outside with his sandals to urinate in a jar. As he did so, he glanced at the radiant full moon, its brightness illuminating the ordered rows of tents. Beyond the stakes surrounding the camp lay a dense expanse of forest, crawling with bizarre creatures apparently native to the North. Hopefully the Wingidons actually have barracks for us thought Vince. The entire thousand-strong detachment was part of a Great Knight expedition to aid their distant allies, the winged denizens of the Eclipse Mountains and the nation of Rovaltinny or "Wings" in the North-West who named themselves the Wingidons. They were particularly strange due to the fact that they had wings - feathery wings akin to those of a bird - which enabled them to fly. Years ago, Great Knight explorers had promised to aid the Wingidons in the case of invasion. Vince smiled to himself as he envisioned the peculiarity of the Wingidons who were delighted by this promise, despite the distance between the two realms being hundreds of kilometres. "They probably won't need us" he muttered to himself.
Once Vince was fully prepared for his night watch, he joined his companions.
“Good morning Delphius”.
Delphius’ lanky form emerged from the dimly-lit tent, grasping a battered axe in one hand and an equally battered shield in his other. “I hate night watch” he grumbled. His eyes were still streaked red and his voice grainy. “I bet you that Pepin the Short just wanted to punish us for fun. ” Delphius remarked as looked back at the diminutive Knight in his polished armour. Vince replied “If we were being punished, we would end up like Grifo. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised Grifo hasn't been executed. Some Great Knight commanders would have just dashed his brains out personally after he disobeyed orders or spoke back to them. I know that at least our old general would have..."
The two fell silent as they passed the blood-soaked body of Grifo, who was leaning against the wheel he had been tied up to, unconscious. "Is this really needed?" Vince questioned himself.
After navigating their way through the near-identical passageways between the tents, Vince and Delphius arrived at the stakes surrounding the statue and several crops of gold.
"Greetings friends" someone whispered at them. It was Samson, holding his remarkably reflective axe in one hand and a lamp in the other.
"Hi Samson" They both responded in near unison. While both Delphius and Samson had been eager to test their prowess in war, only Samson saw night watch as fun. After all, wouldn't it be more challenging to fight the native creatures on their home territory in the dark. Regardless, Samson had always been prepared for battle and had memorised enough military manuals, both regular and ancient, to display and explain every single tactic three Great Knights could use against a variety of opponents, including the nefarious creatures they were on guard for.
"Now Samson, don't get too hopeful that we get attacked by a swarm of these...things. I think everyone else is practically..."
A horrific screech filled the night air, breaking the relative tranquillity of the camp. All three soldiers looked at each other: one smiling, one frustrated; and one concerned. They unsheathed their weapons. Vince felt the adrenaline pumping through his veins, focusing his eyes on the border between the dark forest and the camp. Glimpses of red began to appear in the forest. Vince gripped his weapons tighter.
A single cat-like reptile stepped out of the darkness. It was diminutive in size. Its glowing red eyes widened and protruded out of its face, cackling menacingly.
All of a sudden, a pack of Crawlers pounded out of the twisted woods. The scaled monstrosities leapt over the firm mud and patches of grass. Samson beamed. "Practice time!" he yellled, while Vince cried out "Incoming Crawlers!". The other Knights raised their shields.
Samson's glinting axe sped forwards and cleaved the lead Crawlers head off, which rolled off onto the ground. His next blow landed directly on another Crawler's skull, making a satisfying crunch as it hit. In the meantime, Vince and Delphius used their shields the shove back the incoming Crawlers who threw their entire body mass against them. Vince stabbed his sword forwards and caught a writhing Crawler in the side of its neck, allowing a stream of blood to pour out.
Delphius made a similar movement with his axe, shearing off a creature's leg before finishing it. Without warning, he and Samson then charged forwards, knocking over several Crawlers with their momentum and executing them as they were incapacitated. The furious war cries of the few were matched only by the screams of their enemies. Pools of blood were splattered everywhere at the edge of the stakes as the cold steel and might of the Great Knights unleashed upon the Crawlers.
Within a minute, the once twenty-strong pack of Crawlers was a mere three individuals that had the intelligence, and the nonchalance, to scamper back into the forest, dragging a few of the smallest casualties along with them, presumably for consumption.
"Cowards!" Samson cried jokingly at the fleeing Crawlers. He stared down at the numerous disfigured lumps of flesh and kicked one head away, before pulling out a clean clothes to wipe the blade of his axe with. Delphius spat on one of the corpses and made a rude gesture at it, proceeding to stamp its brains out. Vince’s heavy breathing ceased and he looked to the other Knights, several of whom had rushed out to defend the statue. Some were clutching their axes and swords, while a few longbowmen and crossbowmen advanced out of their positions to collect the few arrows and bolts they had fired.
Vince felt a slight sense of relief. That had been easy enough.
Chapter Two - Pack Mentality Edit
Vince yawned loudly as the sun rose from the horizon. His companions were all similarly tired and irritated, muttering sarcastic jokes about feeling dead inside. A few had taken to disassembling the dead Crawlers and throwing their mutilated remains at each other to save themselves from going insane with boredom. All were broadly arrayed around the statue, with only a few focusing on the forest they were all supposed to watch for.
Samson continued to switch between reading a history book of Cranium (Northern Inamorta) and polishing his shield, which he had laid out next to the statue. "Apparently, we're only a day's march away from Rovaltinny" he stated rather plainly. He knew that many of the Great Knights on this expedition were doubtful of their purpose: sending almost 2,700 Knights and 400 Auxiliary Soldiers deep into the North seemed impractical to face an entire invasion force by an unknown enemy. Regardless, no one truly despised the Wingidons, only their lack of a sophisticated language, in fact the Knight's considered "Wingidon" as an insult if said directly to them, and referred to them solely as Rovalians, especially since the Wingidons' cousins in the Eagle Mountains, known as the Theryn, were somewhat superior in their technology and closer to the Great Knights.
"Good morning again lads!" Pepin, their short-statured commander, arrived with a small grin. "Finally, the expedition is moving out again to link up with a Rovalian detachment at the borders of their kingdom." His announcement was met with a few quiet cheers and multiple grunts. "However, we haven't been able to contact them because..." Pepin faltered as he surveyed the soldiers' faces. Almost all of them seemed to have been drained of life. After a pause of several seconds, Pepin spoke up again, only at a quieter volume "...At least 3 scouting parties were attacked, apparently by a large pack of Crawlers."
Murmurs erupted throughout the Knights. How could 3 scouting parties, each consisting of 9 Great Knights and 5 Archers be overwhelmed by Crawlers? But the more perceptive realised that there must have been over 300 Crawlers to overwhelm that many soldiers, and with no information of the path ahead, there could be many more.
"Therefore, we're sending out a larger task force to sweep the path and enable communication with the Rovalians, while the rest of us begin to deconstruct the camp. Any questions?"
Chapter Three - Flying Statues Edit